I promised y'all that the next time I posted something about pizza that it would have homemade cheese involved. With a little help from my friends that is now being delivered. The objective was to get some creamy contraband from across state lines and try out Ricki Carroll's 30 minute mozzarella recipe. I'm not sure we actually believed mozz could happen in 30 minutes, but what was going to be a little afternoon road trip and fun in the kitchen turned into a 12 hour celebration of life, food and chance. Like all things local, relationships, knowledge and in this case, a little daring, were key to making this happen.
Best girlfriend R__* spurred this project on by attending and being, um, rather inspired, by a cheesemaking session at the recent Georgia Organics conference held in Athens. Armed with veg and non-veg rennet and "starter" we converged at an undisclosed location and proceeded to make a certain illegal purchase. The purchase of the illegal substance was pretty anti-climactic, and sort of underscores the ridiculousness of legislation around unpasteurized m___. What could be more uncontroversial and normal than visiting a farm and taking home a substance frequently described as the world's most perfect food? As I have pointed out before, this was a regular feature of my childhood and I'm still here to talk about it. It is ludicrous to imagine that it might have been more legal to transport wine (another heavily regulated perfect food) across state lines.
On the way home I noticed a man leave a gas station not more than a few miles from the farm we visited. He was carrying a gallon of milk. I mused for a moment on the thousands of miles, the countless gallons of petroleum and uncountable tons of carbon dioxide that were racked up, used up forever and released into the atmosphere in the supply chain for that particular gallon of milk. That customer has the option, but probably not the knowledge about the option, a few miles away to purchase a gallon of milk that has a supply chain of approximately five feet. Why can't we have more of this?
I think cheese, actually, is the world's most perfect food, and over the course of the day, I realized another reason why raw m__ is so scary to the dairy industry. That's because raw m___ WANTS to be cheese. Really really really badly. The ease of which cheese is produced from raw m___ should strike fear in the hearts of all dairy processors and they should immediately run to their state legislator and demand further restrictions on the rights of citizen eaters to purchase and process whatever life giving substance they want. The should also, while they are there, request further rights and privileges to support the waging of war in the name of cheap energy, to create permanent climatic destruction and to drive trucks around the planet mindlessly and purposelessly. All for the sake of a greasy buck. That's dumb. (Utah Philips, my favorite anarchist, said that, and I'm proud to repeat it).
After enjoying a lovely meal at a local restaurant we took a little break to enjoy the gorgeous weather and reconvened for some seriously subversive and illegal activities later in the evening. The basic process of making cheese is to add a starter, which is anything that will "sour" the milk and can include vinegar, citric acid or buttermilk. Then add rennet, which is a coagulant derived from the intestines of very young cows... (Vegetarians, if you don't want to think about that too much, you should try the very easy process of making your own cheese out of veg rennet. We did!) The next steps involve varying forms of cutting, kneading, heating, salting, etc, etc, to create the kind of cheese you ultimately desire. Our mozz required nuking the curds in a microwave, and kneading and stretching the resulting ball of fragrant yumminess.
Our cheese turned out delicious, but a little bit squeaky and rubbery and not exactly solid. It was ultimately fantastic melted on spinach, sun-dried tomato and garlic pizza which we enjoyed around 10pm with several glasses of wine. But that's not the most important part. The important part was that we were using recipes designed for pasteurized milk, and you all know we were using something else!!! Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Timing is everything in making different kinds of cheeses, and when we added the starter, our milk instantly curdled. That should have happened when we heated it... But we pressed on and ended up with really gigantic curds that we then proceeded to process to a rubbery, squeaky mass. We concluded, perhaps, smugly (?) that maybe raw m___ doesn't actually need all that processing to make really nice cheese...? Or maybe we just don't know what we're doing? Maybe both.
We can't wait to experiment and we'll let you know how that goes too! That is if we aren't arrested the next time we smuggle the good stuff across state lines! Wish us luck!
*all names and locations have been changed to protect the innocent